Monday, February 28, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

If you could find
a nice circular saw
he'd put his neck
against it
just to make certain
it was sharp.
W. T. Ballard
Dealing Out Death

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

The good guy
The bad guy
The girl
didn’t do much of anything at all.
Sara Gran

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Review: William F. Nolan, The Black Mask Boys: Masters of the Hard-Boiled School of Detective Fiction (1985)

Stories included: “Three Gun Terry” (1923) by Carroll John Daly; “Bodies Piled Up” (1923) by Dashiell Hammett; “Hell’s Kettle” (1930) by Erle Stanley Gardner; “Sal the Dude” (1929) by Raoul Whitfield; “Rough Justice” (1930) by Frederick Nebel; “Frost Flies Alone” [original title: “Frost Rides Alone”] (1930) by Horace McCoy; “Gundown” [original title: “Murder Done in Blue”] (1933) by Paul Cain; and “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” (1933) by Raymond Chandler.

William F. Nolan gathers eight representative stories from Black Mask’s heavy-hitters and seasons the mix with a history of the magazine, biographical overviews of the writers, and bibliographies of their work for Black Mask. Unfortunately, by almost any critical yardstick, Black Mask fiction is pretty bad. Joseph T. Shaw, who edited the magazine during its glory years, was interested in good writing, but he was more interested in series characters who would build and keep a base of loyal readers. (Thus, the many, many appearances of Carroll John Daly’s Race Williams, whom even Shaw knew to be terrible.) On the whole, the best story here (no surprise) is Dashiell Hammett’s “Bodies Piled Up,” which manages to be brilliant even if it doesn’t add up to much as a story. And this is the perspective from which Black Mask fiction is best enjoyed: as collections of moments rather than as unified narratives. Approached in this way, even Carroll John Daly’s “Three Gun Terry”—the world’s first hard-boiled detective story—can be fun. Grade: B

Monday, February 14, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

You can’t tell
a wound
from its scab.
Richard Stark
The Damsel

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

5 More Quick Questions with Max Allan Collins

In the second installment of 5 Quick Questions with Max Allan Collins, M.A.C. gives answers about his friend and collaborator Mickey Spillane. Of the many Spillane/Collins publications, two new ones to be aware of: (1) M.A.C. contributes an essay on Spillane’s One Lonely Night to Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads (2010; edited by David Morrell and Hank Wagner), and (2) M.A.C.’s completion of Spillane’s unfinished manuscript for The Consummata (the sequel to Spillane’s 1967 novel The Delta Factor) will be published in October by Hard Case Crime.

1. What was the first Mickey Spillane novel that you read?

One Lonely Night. Changed my life. My world. The private eye as crazed avenger, the private eye writer as noir poet. It belongs on the short list of great P.I. novels with The Maltese Falcon and Farewell, My Lovely.

2. What do you most admire about Mickey Spillane as a writer?

The surrealistic, fever-dream world he creates in the first six Mike Hammer novels is a unique, compelling creation. I would also cite Hammer himself as a voice/character.

3. True or false: Mickey Spillane is America’s most underrated hardboiled novelist.

Probably true. I say “probably” because those who love him really love him. Some major players consider him hugely important—Otto Penzler for one, Ed Gorman for another. And hundreds of millions of readers.

4. Which is more challenging: co-writing a novel with a living co-author, or completing the work of a deceased author?

I find the process quite similar, because with both Barb Collins (my wife and collaborator on the Antiques novels) and Matthew V. Clemens (collaborator on the forthcoming No One Will Hear You), I work from their rough drafts. The back-and-forth comes at the plotting stage. With Mickey, I work from unfinished manuscripts, which I treat as rough draft, and sometimes notes. Obviously the Spillane collaboration is tricky, but I have been unwittingly training for that role since about 1960.

5. What is your favorite Mickey Spillane novel?

One Lonely Night. Hands down. But the first six Hammer novels combine to make an epic hardboiled fantasy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Pulp Poem of the Week

It was one of those
Chinese-type dresses,
with a high slit,
and it fit her
like a glass
around a strong drink.
Gil Brewer

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review: David Goodis, The Blonde on the Street Corner (1954)

Not much happens in The Blonde on the Street Corner, which, I suppose, is part of the point. Empty characters with empty lives. Sometimes they strive for something better, but most of the time it's not worth the trouble. After all, it won't ever amount to much. Goodis does his job by staying out of the way. Prone to overwriting himself into a mess, he keeps it simple this time. Grade: B